| DUBLIN, Sept 24
DUBLIN, Sept 24 The Irish are famous around the
world for their convivial drinking culture and the cosy pubs
that have been copied around the world - but it seems they do
not want to be cajoled into an annual celebration of their
An Irish minister on Tuesday criticised the international
drinks firm Diageo for inventing a "pseudo-national
holiday" to market its products, not least the Dublin-brewed
Guinness - part of a growing backlash against "Arthur's Day".
Diageo began the celebration in 2009, to mark the 250th
anniversary of the opening of Arthur Guinness's first brewery in
Dublin on Sept. 26. This year it will be marked in 32 countries
with events including free concerts by the likes of The Script,
Emeli Sande and the Manic Street Preachers.
Diageo says the event is a "showcasing of Ireland's talent
and creativity", but it has been derided by some of Ireland's
most famous musicians as a cynical marketing ploy, attacked by
doctors concerned with high levels of binge drinking, and
criticised by music fans who have called for a boycott on social
"It seems to me that Diageo has invented Arthur's Day as a
pseudo-national holiday for the purposes of marketing," Alex
White, a junior minister responsible for alcohol, was quoted as
saying in the Irish Times.
"There is a serious problem, not only with the amount of
alcohol we drink, but also with the harmful patterns in which it
is consumed," said White, whose department has been urged to
bring in minimum pricing on alcohol and curb the industry's
sponsorship of sports events.
According to the Dublin ambulance service, there was a 30
percent increase in call-outs during last year's Arthur's Day
compared to the same day a week earlier, prompting Ireland's
Royal College of Physicians to launch a vocal campaign against
Mike Scott of the band The Waterboys has joined the protest
with "A Song For Arthur's Day".
Another tune written for the occasion, by the Irish folk
singer Christy Moore, paints a picture of overwhelmed hospital
emergency departments picking up the pieces of an evening's
heavy drinking: "The A&E will be like a drunk tank in the firing
line/ While Diageo goes AWOL at closing time."
Marketing experts have admired the slickness of Arthur's Day
as a promotional campaign, but Diageo has been on the defensive
all week, with representatives making regular radio and
television appearances to justify the event.
"It's a fantastic example where we bring together three
great things in Ireland - a great brand in Guinness, the pub,
which is an iconic part of Irish culture, and music," Diageo
spokesman Peter O'Brien told the Newstalk radio station.
"On Thursday, the vast majority of people will go out and
enjoy all of those three things and enjoy them sensibly."
But 74 percent of the 7,000 listeners who texted RTE
national radio after it asked their opinion said they were not
in favour of Arthur's Day.
"With high rates of alcohol consumption and binge drinking,
we don't need another reason to drink," said Professor Frank
Murray, chairman of the alcohol policy group of Ireland's Royal
College of Physicians.